3 senior PAGASA weathermen may join exodus

By Pia Gutierrez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 03 2014 04:21 PM | Updated as of Jun 04 2014 06:58 PM

MANILA - The Philippines is in danger of losing three more forecasters to Qatar, according to the PAGASA Weathermen Employees Association (PWEA).

PWEA President Ramon Agustin said the possible loss of the 3 weather forecasters would have a bigger impact on the state weather bureau.

He said the 3 are among the most senior and more experienced forecasters in PAGASA.

"Sila talaga ang mabibigat. Kapag umalis sila, yun ang talagang mararamdaman natin. Itong tatlo ang mga eksperto sa larangan, mga future PAGASA leaders," he said.

Last month, 4 weathermen resigned from the state weather bureau to work in Qatar. The latest to resign, Cris Galang, was a weather observer stationed at the Doppler radar station in Subic.

With the current resignations, only 13 forecasters remain in PAGASA. Two of the weather forecasters are currently undergoing training.

Agustin said he is doing all he can to get the country's weathermen to stay. However, he cannot blame them for leaving with the compensation they are getting.

It also doesn't help that they see their former colleagues abroad now living better lives because they chose to leave.

The country's weathermen have long criticized the low salaries and delayed benefits in the state weather bureau.

Agustin said PAGASA employees have yet to receive their hazard pay, which has been delayed for six months already.

This, despite the existing Magna Carta for Scientists which provides for more support for the country's science and technology workers.

Since 2005, at least 33 PAGASA personnel have left the bureau to work abroad, according to PAGASA Officer-in-Charge Administrator Victor Malano.

He told the Senate Committee on Science and Technology that 28 of those who have resigned were experienced weather forecasters.


Meanwhile, another agency, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, has lost 10 of its employees during the same period. The Advanced Science and Technology Institute was also revealed to be experiencing brain drain.

Committee Chair Senator Ralph Recto said that several measures are being proposed to hopefully stop the exodus of science workers, particularly weather forecasters, to other countries.

The senator has proposed an amendment to Republic Act 8349 which pegs the hazard pay of employees to 30 percent of their monthly basic pay.

The Department of Budget and Management also said that they are currently conducting a survey of the salaries of comparable positions of PAGASA employees in the private sector or other countries which will be basis for future salary adjustments.

They are set to submit the report in two months to the Office of the President.

Recto said this is aside from the proposed PAGASA modernization bill, which he hopes will help restore hope for the beleaguered weather agency.

Malano earlier said that they need around 2 billion pesos for additional equipment including the construction of more aviation weather services in major airports, the establishment of astronomy and planetarium services in Visayas and Mindanao, and the strengthening of numerical weather prediction and research group as well as upgrading of communication facilities.

He also said of the 866 existing personnel in PAGASA, they still need 150 more employees to provide better services for the weather bureau.